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NEWS: Panel recommendation on Fish Lake by July 2

The Williams Lake Tribune reports today that the “federal Panel Review Hearings into Taseko Mines’ Prosperity gold-copper project concluded May 3. The record has been closed and no additional information will be considered by the panel.”

Water campaigner Meera Karunananthan and British Columbia-Yukon organizer Harjap Grewal presented to this federal panel on March 22. To read the transcript of their presentation, please go to http://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/documents/41940/41940E.PDF (starting at page 280). To hear an audio recording of their presentation, go to http://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/document-eng.cfm?document=41852 (starting at the 1 hour 18 minute point).

The Tribune article notes, “The panel has 60 days to prepare its report for submission to the federal Minister of Environment and other agencies — no later than July 2, 2010 — as directed by its Terms of Reference. The minister will then take the matter to the federal Cabinet for a final decision.”

Russell Hallbauer, president and CEO of Taseko, says, “Taseko remains fully confident that the Cabinet will grant approval for mine development.” The Council of Canadians has been telling the federal minister of environment that he should not approve the Fish Lake project.

The article adds, “Taseko says Health Canada is satisfied that there are no human health effects or any ecological health concerns associated with building and operating this mine. Both Environment Canada and Natural Resources Canada agree with Taseko’s findings concerning water quality and aquatic ecology. On the matter of compensation for impacts on fish habitat, the company and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans continue to work towards resolving outstanding issues.”

This may be the case, or it could just be Taskeo’s spin. A media release from the Tsilhqot’in National Government this week tells a different story about where key federal departments are on the issue. The TNG highlighted that, “Environment Canada advised the Panel of its view that there were two alternative mining options that would leave Fish Lake intact, but Taseko Mines Ltd had rejected these alternatives for economic reasons that Environment Canada said could be overstated. Transport Canada told the Panel that the project would have significant adverse effects on navigation (including complete loss of access by the Tsilhqot’in to a sacred island in Teztan Biny for traditional ceremonies) and that Taseko had not presented any proposal at all to mitigate these impacts. Officials from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) informed the Panel that the project failed to meet the basic requirements of its “no net loss” policy for the destruction of fish habitat. They highlighted several risks with Taseko Mines Ltd’s plan to construct a replacement fish reservoir (‘Prosperity Lake’), and stated that even if successful, this reservoir would not come close to replacing the highly productive fish habitat that would be destroyed by the project, including Fish Lake, Little Fish Lake and associated streams.” Read the release at http://canadians.org/water/documents/TIA/TNG-media-10-05-10.pdf.

The CBC reported in late-April that if federal approval is given for the project, “First Nations chiefs in B.C.’s southern Interior say thousands of their bands’ members will use any means they can to stop a major mine in the Chilcotin region. …One First Nations spokesman predicts lawsuits, protests, roadblocks and worse.”

Stone Chief Ivor Myers said, “This is a sacred site for our members. Our water is our number one resource. It’s worth more than gold. …I don’t want to see something like that (violence) where there’s confrontation with the military. I don’t want to see any bloodshed.”

Today’s Williams Lake Tribune article is at http://www.bclocalnews.com/bc_cariboo/williamslaketribune/business/93383864.html.

The CBC report is in a campaign blog at http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=3431.

For more information on our campaign against Schedule 2 ‘tailings impoundment areas’, please go to http://canadians.org/TIA.